Copyright Issues

On September 14, 2007, Prince announced that he was going to sue YouTube and eBay because they “are clearly capable of  filtering sexual content but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success.” Web Sheriff, the international Internet policing company he hired, told Reuters: “The problem is that one can reduce it to zero and then the next day there will be 100 or 500 or whatever. This carries on ad nauseam at Prince’s expense.”

In October 2007, Stephanie Lenz filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Publishing Group, claiming they were abusing copyright law, after the music publisher had YouTube take down Lenz’s home movie in which the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy” played faintly in the background. On November 5, 2007, several fan sites of Prince formed “Prince Fans United” to fight back against legal requests they claim Prince made to cease and desist all use of photographs, images, lyrics, album covers and anything linked to Prince’s likeness.  

While Prince’s lawyers claimed that the use of such representations constituted copyright infringement, the Prince Fans United claimed that the legal actions were “attempts to stifle all critical commentary about Prince.” A few days later, Prince released a statement denying the fansites’ claims, stating “The action taken earlier this week was not to shut down fansites, or control comment in any way. The issue was simply to do with in regards to copyright and trademark of images and only images, and no lawsuits have been filed.” The statement from AEG, Prince’s promoter, asserted that the only “offending items” on the three fansites were live shots from Prince’s 21 nights in London at the O2 Arena earlier in the year.

On November 8, 2007, Prince Fans United received a song named “PFUnk”, providing a kind of “unofficial answer” to their movement. The song, originally debuted on the PFU main site,  was retitled “F.U.N.K.” and is available on iTunes.
On November 14, 2007, it was reported that the satirical website b3ta.com had pulled their “image challenge of the week” devoted to Prince after legal threats from the star under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. B3ta co-founder Rob Manuel wrote on the site: “Under threat of legal action from Prince’s legal team of ‘potential closure of your web site We have removed the Prince image challenge and B3ta apologizes unreservedly to AEG / NPG and Prince for any offence caused. We also ask our members to avoid photoshopping Prince and posting them on our boards.”

At the 2008 Coachella Music Festival, Prince performed a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”, but immediately after he forced YouTube and other sites to remove footage that fans had taken of the performance, despite Radiohead’s demand for it to remain on the website.  Days later, YouTube reinstated the videos, while Radiohead claimed “it’s our song, let people hear it.” In 2009, Prince put the video of that Coachella performance on his then-official website LotusFlow3r.com.

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